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Evaluate Shakespeares portrayal of Nature and loyalty in King Lear up to Act 2 Scene 1?

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Introduction

´╗┐Evaluate Shakespeare?s portrayal of Nature and loyalty in King Lear up to Act 2 Scene 1? The theme of nature pervades King Lear throughout, and forms a large basis of the topic of the play. It is thanks to the idea of nature that we can see the characteristics of characters, for instance the degree of their loyalty, and their progression throughout the play in relation to their belief of ?nature?. Nature, however, in King Lear can be a complex matter, and is best divided into three main areas. There is ?Nature? in itself, essentially seen as a force more powerful (perhaps omnipotent), by some characters and ?removed? from the human world. Then there is ?nature?- that is the nature of characters and their personalities, and finally the ?natural?- the characters? own individual view whether something is in their eyes ?natural? or not. These three sub-topics heavily inter-link with each other during the play, and essentially help constitute each other too. However, ?nature? on its own is harmless. It is human influence that creates the disharmony that mentions of ?nature? appear to portray. It is therefore first appropriate to explain how ?nature? first causes such unrest. The opening dialogue of the opening scene introduces us to Gloucester?s view of what is natural or not. ?I have so often blushed to acknowledge him?the whoreson must be acknowledged? lets us know that, although accepting that Gloucester by blood his own son, he believes in the natural order and therefore sees his son Edmund as illegitimate and a bastard. ...read more.

Middle

The ?battle? of malign versus benign nature best defines and groups the contrasting ?natures? in the play, and categorising the characters into these groups is important in ascertaining the motives, and loyalty, of the characters. From the evidence we can draw in the opening scene we can categorise Cordelia?s nature as ?good?. She does not use false, wholly empty flattery to attempt to please her father: ?Love, and be silent? is a genuine display of love for her father, and evidences her integrity and loyalty, to which Lear is sadly blind. Gonerill and Regan, after stating their plot to ?do something i?theat?, are essentially directly contrasted to their benevolent sister and therefore are malign characters. The animal imagery that is associated with them- ?wolvish visage..serpent?s sooth? indicate the unnaturalness of their behaviour in comparison to how they should behave if they observed the natural social order. Edmund?s reaction to Gloucester?s assertion of the ?natural order? most definitely makes him the ?bad?, or ?evil? and disloyal character, his deceitful letter highlighting his malcontent, and his Machiavellian character (based on writer Niccolo Machiavelli?s 16th century character, who took delight in their own manipulative evil and were synonymous with the devil). Kent and the Fool, the only other ?major? characters in Act I, have a loyal and good nature- their common goal is to help Lear achieve insight, and prevent the evil that the malign-natured characters are trying to impose. ...read more.

Conclusion

Gloucester?s stubborn belief in the ?nature? of his sons not only causes his downfall in the long run, but is also used against him as a method to undermine him further; this belief in the natural order clearly does him no favours. The irony is almost needless to be mentioned- Edmund, through his acting, pretends to hold the same view that his father does by classifying Edgar as unnatural, though it is this brandishing of whether a character is natural or not that Edmund loathes, and is in fact is actually the central reason for his rise against his father. Gloucester?s blind nature of course means that he is truly fooled, and as as a result misplaces his loyalty into Edmund by stating he is a ?loyal and natural boy?- dramatically ironic as we know the true extent of Edmund?s loyalty. This bold and malign nature of Edmund reflects and is explained by what he sees ?Nature? as. His claim in his second scene soliloquy- ?Nature art my goddess?- highlights how he sees Nature as a more powerful force, and a motivator, or motivation to drive him forward in his evil ways. He has a theory of his own nature- ?the maidenliest star?twinkled on my bastardisig? ?that his nature would have been evil whatever star he was born under- and this epitomises his self-motivated character. Also, what makes him especially fearful is the fact that instead of accepting a god, he adopts nature as his god, suggesting that his evil may be without limits. ...read more.

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